Tag Archives: Darlene Cavalier

Laughing and other citizen science projects at ScienceStarter

Thanks to David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis blog) and his Oct. 18, 2012 posting for alerting me to SciStarter (Note: I have removed some links),

SciStarter, a clearinghouse for scientists and interested civilians to find each other for projects has noted that some of their projects run into trouble.  With limited time and resources, help is not always available.  So they would like to enlist the crowd.

Next month SciStarter will run a contest to help find solutions for these problems. …

I wasn’t able to find any more information about the contest on the SciStarter website but the organization’s blog offers an Oct. 18, 2012 posting by John Ohab which lists ten items from its project list (Note: I have removed pictures),

The Royal Society Laughter Project: The Royal Society has put together a playlist of different laughs that you can listen to. The tricky part is that some are real and some are fake. See if you can guess which laugh is real and which is posed. The results will help researchers at the University College of London learn how people react to different sounds. This is science that will make you LOL!

Age Guess: AgeGuess is a simple project in which you guess the age of other people by looking at their pictures. In just a few minutes, you can help create a first of its kind research data set for the study of human aging. The project is studying the differences between how old you look to others and your actual age.

EyeWire: Scientists need your help mapping the neural connections of the retina. All you have to do is color brain images! EyeWire is a fun way to learn about the brain and help scientist understand how the nervous system works.

Digital Fishers: Are you one of those people who loves the ocean but doesn’t want to deal with the sunburns, parking, or other unpleasant aspects that come with the territory? Here’s a project that puts you in touch with the ocean and saves you the extra costs in suntan lotion. Digital Fishers allows you to help scientists identify different species of fish. You can assist with research by watching 15-second videos from the comfort of your own computer and click on simple responses.

Musical Moods:  Musical Moods is a sound experiment that aims to find out how viewers categorize the mood of certain TV theme tunes. The goal is to find out whether there are new ways of classifying online TV content through the mood of the music rather than the program genre itself. The whole experiment takes about ten minutes and is incredibly easy. You listen to themes and answer a few questions about each theme afterward.

Citizen Sort: Video games have the potential to do more than entertain. Citizen Sort is taking advantage of this potential by designing video games that make doing science fun. Citizen Sort is a research project at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University in New York.

Project Implicit:  Project Implicit offers the opportunity to assess your conscious and unconscious preferences for over 90 different topics ranging from pets to ethnic groups to sports team. In 10-15 minutes, you’ll report attitudes toward or beliefs about these topics. It’s that easy! The experience is both educational and engaging, and you get the chance to assist psychological research on thoughts and feelings.

Be A Martian: NASA’s Be A Martian is an interactive Mars science laboratory that allows visitors to help scientists learn about the red planet. You can help identify important features in images returned from previous Mars rovers, ask and vote on questions for NASA Mars experts in a virtual town hall, explore a Mars atlas to learn more about the planet’s terrain, send postcards to Spirit (another Mars rover), and watch educational videos in the Two Moons theater.

Clumpy: When plants experience bacterial infections, the chloroplasts inside the plant cells appear to “clump” together. This can be a bad sign for plants. To help understand these bacterial infections, scientists need help classify images of clumpy chloroplasts. All yo have to do is arrange the images from least clumpy on the left to most clumpy on the right.

MAPPER: Help NASA find life on Mars by exploring the bottom of the lakes of British Columbia, Canada. The Pavilion Lake Research Project has been investigating the underwater environment with DeepWorker submersible vehicles since 2008. Now with MAPPER, you can work side-by-side with NASA scientists to explore the bottom of these lakes from the perspective of a DeepWorker pilot.

I did take a closer look at the MAPPER project since the research takes place in my home province,

Photo: getmapper.com (downloaded SciStarter.com)

Help NASA find life on Mars by exploring the bottom of the lakes of British Columbia, Canada.

The Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP) has been investigating the underwater environment with DeepWorker submersible vehicles since 2008. Now with MAPPER, you can work side-by-side with NASA scientists to explore the bottom of these lakes from the perspective of a DeepWorker pilot.

The PLRP team makes use of DeepWorker subs to explore and document freshwater carbonate formations known as microbialites that thrive in Pavilion and Kelly Lake. Many scientists believe that a better understanding of how and where these rare microbialite formations develop will lead to deeper insights into where signs of life may be found on Mars and beyond. To investigate microbialite formation in detail, terabytes of video footage and photos of the lake bottom are recorded by PLRP’s DeepWorker sub pilots. This data must be analyzed to determine what types of features can be found in different parts of the lake. Ultimately, detailed maps can be generated to help answer questions like “how does microbialite texture and size vary with depth?” and “why do microbialites grow in certain parts of the lake but not in others?”. But before these questions can be answered, all the data must be analyzed.

Participation fee          $0

Expenses                     $0

Spend the time          outdoors

Location                      online

Children                      yes

Primary school         yes

Secondary school     yes

Teaching materials    no

I notice this is another of Darlene Cavalier’s initiatives (who also runs the Science Cheerleader website [my May 14, 2012 posting features a profile of Darlene]).

Science is a girl thing, eh?

I think it’s the sheer cheesiness of the video and ‘branding’ that bothers me most. Science: It’s a Girl Thing! is the European Commission’s brave new attempt to make science appealing to girls. Unfortunately it looks like a campaign for cosmetics. If you go to the website, you’ll find the lettering for the brand is pink (lipstick) while the letter ‘i’ in Science is represented by a lipstick which looks like a different shade than the one used for the lettering. Very cheesy branding but apparently it’s the video that has caused a bit of an uproar.  Here it is for your delectation,

I find the June 29, 2012 posting by Curt Rice at the Guardian Science blogs gives insight into some of the current response (condemnation and support from an unexpected source) to and the prior planning that went into the campaign,

Advertising professors everywhere must be thanking the European Commission for their new campaign, Science: it’s a girl thing! This campaign – designed to convince high school girls to pursue careers in science – had such a badly bungled launch that it’s sure to become the topic of lectures and exam questions for communications students throughout Europe and beyond.

The problem lies in the “teaser” video, which went viral last week for all the wrong reasons. It was put up on the campaign website, disliked, criticised, mocked and then pulled down faster than the gaga male scientist in the video could open his zipper.

The video was so shocking that the EC had to deny that it was an attempt at irony.

I was a member of the “gender expert group” that provided recommendations to the commission for this campaign. We met during the spring of 2011, articulated ideas about target groups and relevant evidence-based perspectives. We submitted a report and then heard nothing more from the commission until receiving an invitation to the kick-off a few weeks ago.

When that invitation came, it worried me. The logo for the campaign was written in lipstick – pink lipstick. “What will that convey?” I wondered.

My uncertainty about how the campaign would be received was vanquished the moment I saw the teaser video. Not only was it completely devoid of any trace of our group’s recommendations – as we noted in a recently released joint statement – but its sex roles were stereotypical clichés.

Here’s what I found particularly intriguing,

I started airing my concerns on Twitter. The debate was lively and engaged; it was nuanced. Twin sisters in Australia were provoked to write to me and elaborate on their views. Imogen and Freya Wadlow are 17 years old and they run two science websites, one for younger kids and one for teens.

How did two teenagers with award-winning websites view the infamous video? They thought it was a stereotype-busting effort! That’s right. Imogen and Freya told me that they receive loads of emails from girls who love science but hate being labeled geeks. Why, they ask, can’t scientists wear make-up, killer heels and be seen laughing?

I do like Rice’s suggestion for a proactive response to this video,

Maybe crowdsourcing the creation of a teaser – based on the campaign’s website – would be the best way to find out what could tempt teenage girls to study science.

In fact, I think we should show the European Commission just how crowdsourcing the teaser could work. Let’s have a contest. Go to the campaign website and find your inspiration. Think about what could be a meaningful teaser video. And then make it!

Rice is the Pro Rector for Research and Development at the University of Tromsø (Norway). Rice gives the contest rules here,

The #ScienceGirlThing contest

The European Commission has just launched a campaign — Science: It’s a girl thing! — that aims to increase participation of women in science. However, one part of the launch was a fiasco. Join our contest and show the European Commission that YOU can do better!

To get attention for the campaign, the Commission used a “teaser” video:

That video was extremely controversial and it was quickly abandoned. Twitter exploded with discussion marked with the hashtag #sciencegirlthing.

Let’s show the Commission what kind of talent is out there. Let’s show them how crowdsourcing can create something brilliant.

The contest below is for you!

The winning video will be shown at the European Gender Summit 2012, November 29-30 at the European Parliament in Brussels. (UPDATE: I’m working on a securing a cash prize for the contest as well. Watch this space for news about this in the coming few days.)

Create a video for Europe

Create your own video teaser and have it shown at the European Gender Summit 2012 and promoted on this site.

Here’s how it works:

1. Visit the Science, It’s a Girl Thing website.

2. Create a one minute (or less) video designed to drive traffic to the site and create awareness for the project.

3. Upload your video to YouTube and include the hashtag #sciencegirlthing in the description, and tweet to @CurtRice with a link to your video. I’ll promote your videos on my blog and on Twitter.

4. Encourage people to “like” your video on YouTube. The one with the most likes on Tuesday, November 6, at 12 noon Central European Time will be shown at the conference.

5. Sign up for our newsletter below [on Rice’s blog] and receive updates on who is winning with links to all of the videos.

The teen (and twin sister) Australian science bloggers mentioned in  Rice’s posting on the Guardian dropped by on June 30,2012 to leave a comment,


30 June 2012 12:47AM

We’re Immie & Freya (mentioned in Curt’s article). We LOVE Reena’s survey (http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/16896759); shows that our responses were pretty typical of teen girls. We are a bit older than the girls surveyed, so we understand that in a few years when we’re working scientists, we will be more focussed on being seen as professional and serious scientists. But right now, we need to smash the stereotypes that stop girls getting interested in science in the first place. I don’t think those making negative comments about the video remember just how alienating being interested in science can be, especially for girls. It shouldn’t just be for the quiet geeks, science should be for ALL girls and like it or not, us teens identify more with the girls depicted in the video than with white coats and glum faces (see: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/06/opinion-scientist-stereotype/). We love that at least the EU is making an effort and yes, we’d love to re-do the video; get rid of all that pouting and the dude perving at the girls, get some REAL scientists in there, because we’ve met some amazing cool science chics who DO wear killer heels, lipstick and are happy to hit the moshpit and it’s them who’ve inspired us to join the science ranks. All we want as young girls is to feel ‘normal’, not pasted into a stereotype of dull, boring and handles test tubes well! This video is not an answer, but it’s a start!!!!

I had tripped across Rice’s posting last week but it was David Bruggeman’s July 4, 2012 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog that moved me to write about my thoughts on the matter (which I haven’t quite done yet but I will),

Those still smarting from the horribly inept European Commission ad to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for girls should take some solace in the release yesterday of Science Fair, an album from Spare the Rock Records I noticed via Twitter last month.  Net proceeds will go to the science education programs at Girls Inc.

Here’s more from the About Girls Inc. webpage (Note: I have removed some links),

Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through life-changing programs and experiences that help girls navigate gender, economic, and social barriers. Research-based curricula, delivered by trained, mentoring professionals in a positive all-girl environment equip girls to achieve academically; lead healthy and physically active lives; manage money; navigate media messages; and discover an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. The network of local Girls Inc. nonprofit organizations serves 125,000 girls ages 6 – 18 annually across the United States and Canada.

Our History The Girls Inc movement started in New England during the Industrial Revolution as a response to the needs of a new working class: young women who had migrated from rural communities in search of newly available job opportunities in textile mills and factories.

Programs Girls Inc develops research-based informal education programs that encourage girls to take risks and master physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. Major programs address math and science education, pregnancy and drug abuse prevention, media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention, and sports participation.

I always find the Board of Directors list to be very informative, you may want to take a look (the first name on this list is Michelle Obama, First Lady of the US).

I digress; the video of ‘I am a scientist’ by Mates of State for the Science Fair album (available here and mentioned in the earlier excerpt from  David Bruggeman’s posting) provides a contrast to the Science: It’s a Girl Thing video but is fraught with its own stereotype,

Nerd  (corrected July 6, 2012 at 16:30 PST) Geeky girl with glasses (intelligent girls almost always wear glasses in videos, movies, & tv series) gets laughed at for her ‘science’—that’s a very familiar trope. In fact, these two videos represent the dominant (almost the only) stories ‘you’re sexy and can’t hold onto your molecules (i.e., not very good at science/business/etc.)’ or ‘you’re a nerd and people will will laugh at you when you try to be serious’ about girls/women/females. I don’t think the stories are the problem it’s just that they’re pretty much the only stories that get represented. Then, we all start arguing as if it’s an either/or situation.

I should mention here Darlene Cavalier and the Science Cheerleader website where she has been tackling the issue of being overtly girly and practicing science for years. You can check out my Sept. 2, 2010 posting (scroll down 3/4 of the way)  or you can look at this from her June 19, 2012 posting about twins (in honour of the Australian bloggers, Imogen and Freya Wadlow), scientists, and cheerleaders, Kim and Kelly,

Kim and Kelly, former Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders, science professionals, and twins (from the Science Cheerleader website)

So what got you two into science?
My science related career evolved over time. My initial work was on the business side with ExxonMobil. Later I managed operations in a facility which included safety, health, and environmental compliance and I really enjoyed the learning curve of the vast environmental regulation arena. This experience allowed me to eventually move into a position as an Environmental Advisor, in which I support the company’s Lubricant Blend Oil Plants in their environmental sustainability initiatives and environmental compliance.
Kelly: After teaching 3rd grade for nine years, a position opened up in my school building for a 6th grade science teacher. I jumped at the chance to challenge myself to teach and become an expert in one subject area instead of teaching all subject areas. I took many classes, training, and in-service workshops in preparation for teaching science.

Personally, I want to see more stories and variations and I’m glad to see Darlene has continued with her quiet campaign to challenge stereotypes about women in science.

Good luck to Curt Rice and I look forward to seeing the entries to his contest.

One last thing about David Bruggeman’s July 4, 2012 posting, he has some details and a video clip about a geometry movie Sphereland, sequel to a 2007 movie, Flatland. Both movies are based on books of the same title.

Science envoys and science with football and Dancing with the Stars

The US government established science envoys (scientists as part of the diplomatic service) in 2009. According to this  Sept. 19, 2010 posting on the Pasco Phronesis, three more people have been appointed,

The newest science envoys are:

Dr. Rita Colwell, former Director of the National Science Foundation. Her background is in biotechnology and microbiology, and her current research interests include infectious diseases.

Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, an agronomist at Purdue University and a native of Ethiopia. His research interests focus on sorghum, an important cereal and feed crop worldwide.

Dr. Alice Gast, president of Lehigh University. Dr. Gast has a background in chemical engineering, and served as the vice president for research at MIT prior to becoming the Lehigh President.

(You can get links and more details from Pasco Phronesis.) I find this introduction of science into areas that I don’t ordinarily associate with it quite interesting. Here’s another example also from Pasco Phronesis, science with US style football (Sept. 17, 2010 posting),

Continuing a project started during the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NBC has partnered with the National Football League (NFL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide science content to augment the network’s football coverage. With the help of high-speed cameras, a scientist (most sponsored by NSF) will introduce a scientific principle and a former or current NFL player will explain how the principle applies to their position. Scientific fields represented include kinesiology, engineering and nutrition.

David (Pasco Phronesis) goes on to suggest that a segment on concussions (not currently part of the series) would be a good idea and I have to agree with him on that one.

To my delight I found that Science Cheerleader (Darlene Cavalier) helped develop this program (from her Sept. 9, 2010 posting),

Man, this was one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on (partnership director). I originally pitched this as the Science of Pro Cheerleading but, what the heck, this ain’t too shabby. Huge round of applause to the National Science Foundation for making this possible. Together, with the incomparable professionals at NBC and NFL, we present to you, the Science of NFL Football….with a few procheerleaders-turned-scientists- and engineers sprinkled in here and there. Can’t help it. And, these gals do a great job inspiring young women to consider careers in science and technology so SciCheer is broadening the distribution of this series. We will debut new video stories every week for the next seven weeks.

Given her engaging perspective, I imagine the US National Football League’s and NBC series will also be engaging and creative.

Both David and Darlene have made me realize just how much science is being snuck into unexpected places these days. This reminded me that Dancing with the Stars also had a science segment. One of the nights they broadcast the show (can’t remember which season), they included information about the kinesiology and physics of ballroom dancing and compared dancers to athletes. Science is everywhere.

Citizen science projects: solutions for Gulf of Mexico oil spill? Working with NASA to identify moon craters? Working with the US Geological Survey to better identify earthquake warnings?

You can find the projects I’ve listed in the headline (and others) at the Science Cheerleader website which was founded by Darlene Cavalier, from the About page in her own words,

The year was 1991, I was a senior at Temple University (where many thought I dual majored in cheerleading and mixology) and I was starved for cash. I supplemented my pitiable income by becoming a professional cheerleader for the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team. After a couple of exciting years sharing the spotlight with Sir Charles Barkley, I had to retire the skimpy outfits and pom poms, as “serious” work was calling. I was hired as a part-time temp to stuff envelopes for the Discover Magazine Technology Awards. Eventually, I was hired full-time by Discover (owned by the Walt Disney Company at the time) to run the awards and to manage business development activities for the company’s magazine group.

Darlene Cavalier in her cheerleading days

I returned to school at the University of Pennsylvania and dove into science history, sociology, and science policy to learn more about people like me: people with no hard academic background who are deeply interested in science, especially in its public faces in science policy and science literacy.

In the process, I uncovered a remarkable group of people I’d never seen or even heard about before. Scientific Citizens. Through their grass-roots, bottom-up efforts they aid research in a plethora of science fields by tagging butterflies, monitoring the health of water, keeping an eye on migratory patterns of birds, discovering new galaxies, and so much more.

Her May 13, 2010 post about the challenge that Andrew Revkin at the DotEarth New York Times blog set for researchers and other interested parties to come up with solutions for the current BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico offers some interesting insight into the politics of how BP is handling suggestions from outsiders along with commentary about the US federal Minerals Management Service which is charged, amongst other responsibilities, with overseeing oil rigs. She offers an excerpt of her May 13 , 2010 post here on Science Cheerleader and the full post here on DiscoverMagazine.com where she is a guest blogger during May 2010.